Whilst cycling twixt Redcar and Newcastle one sunny Monday morn, I espied a tower on the distant horizon.
I pedalled hurriedly along and this is what I found.
Dawson House aka Kingsway.
A fifteen-storey circular tower block of 60 one-bedroom flats and 29 two-bedroom flats, making 89 dwellings in total. The block was built as public housing at the western fringe of the Town Centre development that began in 1952. Approved in 1973, the block is of triangular concrete-beam construction.
The architects were Elder Lester Associates.
The block was built by Teeside County Borough Council.
Stanley Miller Ltd.’s tender for the contract was £778,850.
The tower block was opened on 3rd April 1975 by the Mayor of Stockton Borough Council, John Dyson.
The block is described as ‘gimmicky circular tower block’ in The Buildings of England: County Durham by N. Pevsner.
In November 2013, a time capsule was buried in front of The Family, under a stone with the inscription Forever Forward 30 11 2013.
The capsule is not to be unearthed until the year 2078.
Twenty million pound bid to take back control of the centre of Billingham.
The council says: Proposals include addressing the physical condition of Billingham town centre in support the Council’s ambition to take back control of the centre. Redevelopment would solve the challenges of changing retail trends that are contributing towards excess retail space and high vacancy rates.
This includes exploring options for mixed-use redevelopment and high-quality public spaces that improve accessibility within the town centre and a modern retail offering.
Built in 1968 by local architects Elder Lester and Partners as part of the expansive plans for the town centre along with the Forum, La Ronde nightclub was to form part of the expansive plans for Billingham focused on the pursuit of increased leisure time.
La Ronde’s distinct cylindrical form comes from the car park access ramp that winds around the stair core to the upper floors of the club. The elevated drum-like form inset with cross latticed concrete webs was cast entirely in-situ.
In 2006, the council demolished La Ronde and Forum House at the cost of £500,000 to make way for a supermarket.
In 1960, Billingham Urban District Council, began one of the most ambitious new leisure centres in Europe. The Forum was funded by the district’s new-found wealth – a product of the local petrochemical industry. It was designed by local architects Elder Lester and Partners and brought together a variety of recreational activities including an ice rink, swimming pool, sports centre, theatre, and bar all under one roof. The Forum opened in July 1967 to great enthusiasm. Weekly attendance over the first six months was between 20 000 and 30 000 people, far exceeding all expectations.
The inclusion of the theatre alongside the sports facilities broke new ground in recreational planning and in the shift from sport to the broader notion of ‘leisure’, the Forum predated architectural thinking of the time by nearly a decade. The building’s form is derived from the functions within, expressed in a variety of bulbous elements. The most distinctive is the canopy of the ice rink roof which is hung using steel cables running the length of the roof and cross-braced to achieve a clear 73m span.
The Theatre De-Luxe was built in 1911 at the corner of Anlaby Road and Ferensway with its entrance in Anlaby Road and its auditorium along the side of the pavement in Ferensway. Kinematograph Year Book of 1914 lists 600 seats and the owners as National Electric Picture Theatres Ltd.
In 1925, the theatre was rebuilt to a radically altered ground-plan and renamed the Cecil Theatre.
The Cecil Theatre’s demise came during bombing on the night of 7/8 May 1941 when German incendiary bombs reduced the building to a shell; and it remained like that until demolition in 1953.
Work on the new Cecil Theatre was begun in April 1955 and it was opened on 28th November 1955 with 1,374 seats in the stalls and 678 in the balcony.
Architects: Gelder and Kitchca
At the time of opening it had the largest CinemaScope screen in the country measuring 57 feet wide, and the first film shown was Marilyn Monroe The Seven Year Itch.
In the 1980’s it was taken over by the Cannon Cinemas chain. The cinema operation was closed on 23rd March 1992 and the cinemas were ‘For Sale and/or Lease. It was taken over by Take Two Cinemas and renamed Take Two Cinema. It was closed on 27th February 1997 and the two screens in the former circle were stripped out and converted into a snooker club.
Whilst bingo continues in the former stalls area of this post war cinema, the former mini cinemas in the circle still contain the snooker tables, but the space is unused. The screen in the former restaurant/cafe area remains basically intact, but is unused.
Whilst circumnavigating the Cecil one can’t help but notice the KCOM HQ – and its distinctive white telephone kiosks.
The work of City Architect A Rankine OBE RIBA
When Hull City Council founded KCOM back in 1904, as Hull Telephone Department, it was one of several local authorities across the country granted a licence to run its own phone network.
1952 Call Father Christmas service was introduced.
Having heard of a recorded message service in Scandinavia, Hull Councillor J M Stamper suggested the idea of putting Father Christmas on the telephone. The Call Father Christmas service was introduced shortly afterwards, the first of its kind in the UK. By dialling a Hull Central number children could hear recordings of a Christmas story and carol singing.
The success of the Father Christmas service led to the creation of other recorded information lines, such as Bedtime Stories, Teledisc and Telechef.
This recipe line was introduced in 1950s and was still going strong until the 1990’s, with 50s recipes such as meat loaf and corned beef with cabbages being replaced by dishes such as Italian Chicken Bake.
Sea trade created a large Danish community which Hull’s very own Amy Johnson was descended from. Her grandfather was Anders Jorgensen, who anglicised his name to the more pronounceable Andrew Johnson. A Danish pastor was appointed and an old chapel in Osborne Street was purchased in 1841.
It was on May 9, 1954, that the present church, with its now familiar separate bell tower, was consecrated by the Bishop of Copenhagen.
Hull was the most severely damaged British city or town during the Second World War, with 95 percent of houses damaged. It was under air raid alert for one thousand hours. Hull was the target of the first daylight raid of the war and the last piloted air raid on Britain.
Of a population of approximately three hundred and twenty thousand at the beginning of the war, approximately one hundred and fifty two thousand were made homeless as a result of bomb destruction or damage.
Overall almost one thousand two hundred people were killed and three thousand injured by air raids.
Despite the damage the port continued to function throughout the war.
The earliest housing was built just after World War II, starting with what is known locally as Australia Houses.
A circular five storey housing block off Porter and Adelaide Streets, with a communal garden in the middle. These flats consist of deck access flats and some traditional style Art Deco tenements. Some are three bedroom, and have been refurbished over the years.
Porter Street – three six-storey blocks containing seventy dwellings of 1954
Contractor J Mather
New Michael Street and Melville Street aka Upper Union Street one hundred and eight dwellings in three nine-storey blocks of 1958
The designer behind Hull’s tower blocks was Andrew Rankine RIBA, who from 1939 remained City Architect until his retirement in 1961.
Just around the corner:
Over the last three years both companies have worked on undertaking the complex development of an off-site constructed, low carbon, Code 5 housing product. Working with Hodson Architects on the design the project will provide 3-bed family houses on the Thornton Estate in Hull. The scheme will increase provision of suitably sized accommodation in the area for families.
The project will see Premier Interlink manufacture the steel framed modules at the factory in Brandesburton East Yorkshire starting this March. The five houses are to be prefabricated off-site, with each house comprising of four separate units which are then assembled on site. This offers the benefit of reducing construction time, improving efficiency, reducing material wastage and offering an improved thermal envelope.
The Goodwin Trust, a brilliant and pioneering community group, decided the new version of pre-fab, or ‘modular’ housing, was exactly what was needed to provide affordable housing for the people it also cares for in so many other different ways.
Back toward the station and Hammonds of Hull/House of Fraser – soon to be a food court, artisan everything outlet.
Built in 1952 on Paragon Square to designs by T. P. Bennett, with extensions added in 1954 and 1957. Within a couple of years the business had grown again by opening its own hairdressing salon, and in 1960 added a new warehouse to accommodate their furniture workshops and stock rooms. This itself was extended within four years, while a fourth floor was added to the main store.
On the right a civic building Festival House of 1951.
Apprenticed to Lutyens‘ assistant Oswald Milne and later working with Charles Cowles-Voysey
With his good friend, John Betjeman, he helped found the Victorian Society in 1958.
On 1st May 1951, the foundation stone of Festival House was laid, to commemorate the first permanent building to be built in the city centre since the 1941 Blitz. Placed under the stone was a time capsule containing coins, stamps, a Festival of Britain programme, a copy of that day’s Hull Daily Mail, and a booklet about the city. Festival House was owned by Hull Corporation on behalf of the people of Hull.
Before us Alan Boyson’s Three Ships – now listed and set for preservation.
The fate of the attached former CO-OP/BHS is less secure.
Architect: Philip Andrew
Onward to the Queens Gardens the almost filled in former Queens Dock – forever fourteen feet below sea level.
We encounter Tonkin Liu’s Solar Gate – a sundial that uses solar alignment to mark significant times and dates in Hull. The super-light innovative two-shell structure is place-specific, responding to pivotal historic events and to the cultural context of its location in Hull’s Queens Gardens adjacent to the ancient site of Beverley Gate.
Carved stone panels Kenneth Carter1960 – Ken’s art career began as an inspiring teacher, first at his alma mater, Hull College of Art, and later as principal lecturer at Exeter College of Art.
A number of decorative fountains featured in the ponds; those at the eastern end designed as part of the sculptured panels of 1960, byRobert Adams, described by Herbert Read as belonging to:
The iconography of despair. Here are images of flight, of ragged claws, scuttling across floors of silent seas, of excoriated flesh, frustrated sex, the geometry of fear.
And behind we glimpse Frederick Gibberd’s fine Technical College.
While working for George Wimpey and Co. Ltd, and together with J E Tyrrell, Chief Architectural Assistant to Gosport Borough Council, Kenneth Barden was responsible for tiled murals on Seaward Tower and Harbour Tower, two sixteen-storey tower blocks built in 1963 on the Esplanade in Gosport.
The surfaces of the tower blocks are covered in mosaic murals designed by Barden that rise the full 135 foot height of the buildings. They were controversial initially but are now a tourist attraction.
The weary workers are already rehoused in One Time Square.
So I went to take a walk around, before the wrecking ball arrives.
The council said there were:
No operational reasons to keep the building in council use or occupied beyond this point, allowing the site to be cleared for redevelopment.
Justifying the demolition, Warrington said the building has poor energy efficiency, high service costs, and is inflexible for modern office and business working
Cost estimates for refurbishment, M&E installation, and energy efficiency measures to keep the building in office use stand at £5m; even if this is actioned, the building would still have limitations for flexible modern working practices and energy efficiency.
The council had explored renting the building out but said: there was no demand for office space of this scale and quality; a sale was also considered but the council found market demand was not significant.
Residential is the most likely outcome for the site, and it will be built into a masterplan for an area including Scotland Road, Town Hill, and Cockhedge. The council said it would look to sell the site in future.
East Didsbury Station was opened in 1909 by the London and North Western Railway and, until 6 May 1974, was called East Didsbury and Parrs Wood.
From 1923, the line was operated by the London Midland and Scottish Railway. Following the formation in 1948 of British Rail, rail services were operated by the London Midland Region of British Railways, then North-Western Regional Railways.
When Hull City Council founded KCOM back in 1904, as Hull Telephone Department, it was one of several local authorities across the country granted a licence to run its own phone network.
Gradually, over time other authorities gave up control of their networks to the Post Office which wanted to create a single national service, but Hull City Council decided to keep its network and continue to go it alone.
While the Post Office network eventually became BT, Hull’s network, like the city itself, remained fiercely independent. That’s why today Hull has its own distinct cream phone boxes in contrast to the red ones you’ll find elsewhere.
At the entrance to the park on Holderness Road are eight concrete walls.
They are covered in square, cast concrete modular panels.
Said to be the work of the City Architect in 1964.
Municipal Dreams lists the City Architect at that time to be JV Wall, having replaced David Jenkin in that same year.
My money’s on Wall – well it makes sense don’t it?
I had taken the bus from Hull Interchange on a chill April morning.
The driver obligingly giving me a shout at the appropriate stop – right outside the gates.
They are not universally loved:
A further testament to the concrete pourer’s art is to be found adorning the entrance to East Park. They are so horrible that I could find nothing on the net to indicate who designed them, shame is a powerful motive for reticence. So here they stand to welcome the visitor; after this the actual park couldn’t be any worse.
Converted to retail use 24th September 2012 after closure. This interesting Victorian building stands back from the road with what may well be a coach road in front. Inside the high ceilings and glorious plasterwork gave the impression of a gentlemen’s club. Though it previously sold cask Banks’s beers in its earlier years, its final days were seen out with only keg beers being available.
The rising cost of repairs, combined with ‘a desire to progress’ with the regeneration of Droylsden town centre and the inaccessibility of the library’s T shape, three-floor configuration means that a ‘solution for the future of the library’ is now needed, according to the town hall.
The stadium opened on July 24th 1926 – 7.30 prompt.
In 1925, Charles A. Munn, an American businessman, made a deal with Smith and Sawyer for the rights to promote the greyhound racing in Britain.
Smith and Sawyer met Brigadier-General Alfred Critchley, who in turn introduced them to Sir William Gentle JP. Between them they raised £22,000 and formed the Greyhound Racing Association Ltd. When deciding where to situate their new stadium, Manchester was considered to be the ideal place because of its sporting and gambling links. Close to the city centre, the consortium erected the first custom-built greyhound stadium and called it Belle Vue. The name of the stadium came from the nearby Belle Vue Zoological Gardens that had been built in 1836 and the land on which the stadium was to stand had been an area of farmland known as Higher Catsknowl and Lower Catsknowl.
By June 1927, the stadium was attracting almost 70,000 visitors a week.
In October 2019 GRA Acquisition sold the lease to the Arena Racing Company and just two months later on 19 December housing planning permission was passed resulting in a probable closure in 2020.
The imminent closure came following an announcement on 1 August 2020, with the last race being run on 6 June, won by Rockmount Buster – trained by Gary Griffiths.
Going to the dogs was an institution for many, whole families enjoying the spectacle, possibly having a bet, bite and a pint.
Time changes everything social habits, views on animal welfare and gambling.
The hare no longer courses electronically around the oval track, the traps no longer flap and the Tote has taken the last of your change, for the very last time.
Drink up and go home.
Speedway was first held at the stadium during 1928 but was not held again until 1 April 1988, when the Belle Vue Aces returned to the stadium. The team departed Kirkmanshulme Lane at the end of the 2015 season, prior to moving to the new National Speedway Stadium for the 2016 campaign.
The shale speedway track was 285 metres in length.
I was a regular of a Monday evening cheering on The Aces.
When I cycled by in 2015 the stadium was already looking tired – the dramatic concrete cantilevered gull-wing turnstiles a neglected storage area.
I’ll always treasure the perspex shark’s fin, Dave’s memory and going to the dogs.
So what of the future?
Countryside are proud to showcase our stunning collection of 114 new homes at Belle Vue Place, featuring a choice of stunning 3 & 4 bedroom homes all designed and finished to the highest standard.
And very handy for the speedway just up the road on Kirky Lane!
1937-38 by Reynolds and Scott built in buff brick of a Modernist Byzantine style.
The choice of the Apostle of Holland as a patron saint for the parish was that of a Dutch priest, Fr. Sassen, who bought land for the parish from St. Brigid’s in 1905. The new parish was opened in 1906.
Fr. Charles Hanrahan developed the mission in its infancy and was followed by Fr. Richard Mortimer, who laboured here for a long period, devoting most of his priestly life to the parish.
Fr. Patrick Dillon supervised the building of the magnificent new church of unusual design, which was opened in 1938.
It’s addictive passing the no access signs, onwards into the abyss.
He hated all this, and somehow he couldn’t get away.
Joseph Conrad – Heart of Darkness
Asda Stores Ltd is a British supermarket chain. It is headquartered in Leeds. The company was founded in 1949 when the Asquith family merged their retail business with the Associated Dairies company of Yorkshire.
It was listed on the London Stock Exchange until 1999 when it was acquired by Walmart for £6.7 billion.
In February 2021, EG Group – led by the Issa brothers and TDR Capital, acquired Asda.
The company was fined £850,000 in 2006 for offering 340 staff at a Dartford depot a pay rise in return for giving up a union collective bargaining agreement. Poor relations continued as Asda management attempted to introduce new rights and working practices shortly thereafter at another centre in Washington, Tyne and Wear.
You were conceived as an integral part of the Merseyway development, which on its inception, was held in the highest regard.
Innovative architecture with confidence, integrity and a clear sense of purpose.
The failure of BHS was a national disgrace, venal management, asset stripping, avaricious, grasping rodents ruled the day.
Dominic Chappell, who had no previous retail experience, bought the high street chain from the billionaire Sir Philip Green for £1 in March 2015. The company collapsed with the loss of 11,000 jobs 13 months later, leaving a pension deficit of about £571m.
A sad end for a company with a long history and presence on the high street.
With an architectural heritage to match:
BHS’s chief architect at this time was G. W. Clarke, who generally worked alongside W. S. Atkins & Partners, as consulting engineers. The stores – like Woolworth’s buildings – were composite structures, with steel frames and concrete floors. Clarke sometimes appointed local architects.
At first, like C&A, BHS retained the narrow vertical window bays and margin-light glazing that had characterised high street façades in the 1930s, but by the end of the 1950s Clarke had embraced a modified form of curtain-walling.
This architectural approach became firmly associated with BHS, with framed curtain wall panels – like giant TV screens – dominating the frontages of many stores.
Of late the store has been home to Poundland – though time has now been called.
Poundland’s retailing concept is extremely simple: a range of more than three thousand – representing amazing value for money.
Our pilot store opened in the Octagon Centre, Burton-upon-Trent, in December of 1990, followed by new stores in High Street, Meadowhall and other quality trading locations. Shoppers loved the concept and so did fellow retailers and landlords. The stores proved to be a huge success. Meadowhall’s success was repeated by further stores opening by the end of the year.
The store has been a success even during COVID restrictions, let us hope that the planned return goes ahead.
So here is my record of the building as is, a tad tired, but in its day a simple and authoritative amalgam of volumes and materials.
Mixing variegated grades of concrete, tiling, mosaic, brick, steel and glass.
According to local historian Diana Leitch, the site has been in use since 1465; the first house was built in 1603 as part of a large estate with a deer park.
In 1740 the site was purchased by the Broome family, and a new house was constructed after 1785 by William Broome, extant today as the front part of the university’s former administration building, now known as Sandhurst House.
By 1812 the house was occupied by a Colonel Parker, and in the 1820s and ’30s it was a girls’ school.
The site was purchased by the Wesleyan Methodist Church on 18 March 1841 for £2,000, and opened as a theological college on 22 September 1842.
The Old Chapel building, originally the college chapel, is a two-storey building constructed in gothic style, with Flemish bond brickwork, built on a sandstone plinth in 1842.The structure consists of three wings, containing a central hall range, with two domestic wings on each side, initially used as tutor accommodation, forming a symmetrical appearance with the gable end of the upper hall. For many years it was used as a library and lecture theatre.
The ground floor eventually became the student union, and contained a bar and café.
During both world wars the site was used as a military hospital. In 1943 the Board of Education had begun to consider the future of education, following reforms that would inevitably come after the war ended. It was estimated that with the raising of the school leaving age, following the 1944 Education Act, about 70,000 new teachers would be needed annually, almost ten times as many as before the war.
In 1944 a report was produced by the Board of Education on the emergency recruitment and training of teachers, and it was decided that there were to be several new training colleges set up. These colleges were to be staffed by lecturers seconded from local authorities, with mature students selected from National Service conscripts. In 1945 the theological college, which was no longer required by the Wesleyans, was leased to the Manchester Education Authority.The new emergency training college was officially opened on 31 January 1946, with Alfred Body as its first principal.
By 1950, the emergency college was purchased by the City of Manchester and made permanent as Didsbury Teacher Training College, with an initial enrolment of about 250 male and female students. As a result of becoming a permanent college, Didsbury became part of Manchester University’s School of Education.
Over the next two decades, numerous buildings were constructed on the site; Behrens, Birley and Simon were all named after prominent local families with ties to the college.
Didsbury became part of Manchester Polytechnic in 1977, renamed Didsbury School of Education.
The adjacent Broomhurst halls of residence have since been demolished.