Platt Court – William Mitchell

Wilmslow Rd Manchester M14 5LT

Situated outside Platt Court a third of four William Mitchell totems that I have visited – Eastford Square and Newton Heath still extant.

William Mitchell 1960

The Hulme exemplar has gone walkabout.

Public Sculpture of Greater Manchester – Terry Wyke

Tower Block tells us this is one 13 storey block containing 62 dwellings along with one 9 storey block containing 70 dwellings.

Built by Direct Labour commissioned by Manchester County Borough Council

Seen here in 1970.

The flats are now gated, so I peeped tentatively through the fencing.

Then chatting to the site’s maintenance gardener I gained access – here is what I saw.

Concrete Totem – Ashton under Lyne

Dale Street East OL6 7ST – behind the Safe Start.

Formerly the Friendship – which suddenly became surplus to requirements, when the Old Street area was redeveloped, and the adjacent Magistrates Courts built.

So far so good, these are the facts we are located.

In an unfamiliar street, in an unfamiliar town.

I myself had the good fortune to grow up here and drink in the Friendship.

Even so I have no recollection of this distinctive concrete column, neither does the whole of the internet.

Do you?

Though very much in the style of the day – exemplified by William Mitchell there is currently no attribution for this work.

Was it at some point relocated, if so from where?

There are more questions than answers.

Eastford Square – 12/21

Here we are again and again and again, a curious passer-by, curious as to what may or may not have taken pass.

Local Image Collection 1970

There is a report of 2020

The report argues that the Northern Gateway should offer mixed, affordable and age appropriate housing and amenities. An equitable development plan should be developed, through community-led engagement, to ensure that the benefits of regeneration are shared amongst new and existing residents.

As of 2021 there is inaction and stasis

Collyhurst was described as a ‘forgotten place’ by some residents who felt that there had been insufficient investment in local housing and amenities.

The Northern Gateway remains a hidden portal to who knows where.

Northern Gateway 2018

Detailed proposals for a second scheme to be delivered within neighbouring South Collyhurst, one of the seven neighbourhoods to be developed as part of the overall Framework, are expected later this year.

Construction Enquirer 2021

Northern Gateway rebrands as Victoria North

Far East Consortium and Manchester City Council’s 390-acre masterplan will now be known as Victoria North, a move that aims to “create a sense of place”, according to Gavin Taylor, regional general manager at FEC in Manchester.

The Northern Gateway has served us well as a name as we shaped plans for the area’s regeneration. But as we begin to bring forward development this year, it’s the right time to start creating a sense of place for what will be a significant new district in Manchester, as well as an identity that people can engage with.

Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, said:

We are at the beginning of an incredibly exciting phase of history for this part of Manchester and with some eagerness to see how this potential unfolds.

Victoria Riverside, a 634- home development marks the first stage of the regeneration project with the first apartments hitting the market. 

The three towers – Park View, City View and Crown View, are based within the Red Bank neighbourhood. 

Red Bank has been described as:

A unique landscape and river setting making the neighbourhood perfect for a residential-led, high-density development – all set in a green valley.

The putative William Mitchell totem continues to keep silent watch over the Square.

Stoke Walk

We begin by doffing our caps to Josiah Wedgwood – who along with countless other unsung heroes defined Stoke on Trent as the heart of the pottery industry.

Stoke is polycentric, having been formed by the federation of six towns in 1910.

It took its name from Stoke-upon-Trent where the main centre of government and the principal railway station in the district were located. 

Hanley is the primary commercial centre.

The other four towns are Burslem, Tunstall, Longton, and Fenton.

Wikipedia

Around the corner to the Staffordshire University.

Staffordshire University was founded in 1914 as a polytechnic intistution, and was officially given University Status on 16 June 1992. Our University is famous for its forward-thinking approach, and has become a figurehead for its vocational and academic teaching, innovative grasp of industry, and student employability.

Although our campus continues to expand to create dynamic opportunities, we are proud of our heritage in the great city of Stoke-on-Trent. Steeped in the history of ceramic manufacture and production, industry in Stoke-on-Trent has been fuelled by Staffordshire University for over 100 years.

The Flaxman Building 1970 was designed by City Architect Thomas Lovatt and built by the City Works Department – the last public works assignment before competitive tendering opened up public restrictions to private enterprise.

Named for to Wedgwood’s famous modeller the classical artist, John Flaxman RA 1755-1826. 

This concrete is very much in the style of William Mitchell – though there is no record of attribution.

The Regional Film Theatre opened in College Road, on the premises of North Staffordshire Polytechnic now Staffordshire University in 1974.

The North Staffordshire Film Society moved there to screen films one evening a week, while the Film Theatre operated on three nights a week. 

Across the way is the assertive slab tower of the 1950’s Mellor Building with its curvy cantilevered porch cover.

Out back is the wavy roofed Dwight Building.

Over the road the new build of the Cadman Studios 2016 ABW Architects.

Walking towards Hanley we come upon the newly built Stoke on Trent College and Sports Academy.

Only one block of the original build remains.

Photograph – 28 Days Later

Tucked away in Hanley Park is this period building.

It has been refurbished and the walkway enclosed since my previous visit.

Further along the way we come upon Churchill House with its distinctive fire escape.

And original architectural signage.

Crossing the inner ring road to the sweeping canopy of the Hanley Bus Station Architects Grimshaw engineers Arup.

Wrapping a corner site, the canopy rises and falls to create a mutable form: appearing as a shimmering, contemporary shield to the south, and a welcoming timbered environment to the north with sweeping views to Victorian Hanley.

Tapered down at the ends to shelter waiting passengers from the prevailing wind, the roof extends beyond the station edge to connect with the neighbouring public plaza.

Sitting atop a Staffordshire blue brick plinth with a Carlow blue limestone concourse, the station adopts materials that are resonant in this area. Its gracefully sweeping canopy belies the challenging site constraints, which were carefully resolved to accommodate the difficult routing of buses, the creation of a safe, sheltered environment for passengers and drivers, and a sloping site underpinned by clay and coal.

The former bus station and precinct long gone.

Above the former bus station looms Blackburn House home to HMRC, an imposing brown brick behemoth.

Photo James Morgan

Previously C&A currently Wilko – adorned with these enchanting Tiles.

This little-noticed panel is composed of six inch surface-textured tiles in a variety of muted tones, mainly greens, purples and blues, some with geometric reliefs. The mural is unusual because it is one of the few surviving installations produced by Malkin Tiles; at least one of the motifs is from their ‘Turinese’ range marketed during 1961-8 and designed by Leonard Gladstone King, Malkin’s art director.

Tile Gazetteer

Over the road Radio Stoke HQ.

Crossing back through town and over the ring road to look at some tiles.

Malkin Tiles of Burslem

Attached to some towers.

Surrounded by housing.

Back into town again to look at the BT Hanley Tower.

And its elderly relation.

Up toward the Potteries MuseumJR Piggott City Architect 1956.

It has undergone extensive exterior reworking.

And recent extension.

Next door the City Library and Archive 1968-70 by JW Plant City Architect

With its its ultra smart relief out back and around the front cantilevered canopy.

Next door the former Cop Shop with the final wavy feature of the day – all yours for a cool £1,500,000

Hull Walk 2021

Turn right out of the station toward the Cecil Cinema.

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.

Cinema Treasures

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.

Returning to Ferensway we are confronted by the Danish Seaman’s Church.

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.

Around the corner we find Porter Street Housing.

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.

UK Housing

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

Contractor Truscon

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.

Premier Modular

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.

Locality

Onward to Holy Apostles Church now home to Hull Truck and renamed Thornton Village Hall.

Architects: Ferrey and Mennim

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.

Architect: John Brandon-Jones.

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 Carter 1960 – 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, by Robert 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.

Adorned by the William Mitchell relief.

Three Tuns – Coventry

At the heart of the Precinct – I found the former Three Tuns pub stood standing – still.

Subsequently imaginatively reimagined as Roosters.

The exterior – and interior for that matter, adorned with the decorative concrete work of William Mitchell.

The area also being blessed with his cast panels and modular tower block fascia.

The precinct is currently, yet again, being considered for constructive rehabilitation, as part of the city’s City of Culture concatenations.

The threat to Modernism is no new thing, and the hurried scrabble for progress, ever so often erases the recent history of that progress.

I popped in way back in 2016, and Mr and Ms Rooster were more than happy, if not a tad perplexed, to have me snap around their chicken shack.

Sufficiently satiated, why not take a stroll around town, whilst it’s still there.

Take in the Cathedral – soon to be become the Kwik-Fit National Museum of Tyre Fitting.

The Indoor Market, Upper Precinct and Co-op

Above the current market office is an impressive painted mural by art students from Dresden commissioned especially for the market in the 1950s in a Socialist Realist manner, depicting farming and industrial scenes. 

The Gordon Cullen tiles have been renovated and re-sited within the exit corridor.

Still in clear view the stone relief work of John Skelton November 1956. Three of the eight column have incised Hornston stone works, depicting the activities of the CWS.

Get yourself there pronto – current restrictions considered of course.

You just might be in time to see the Station.

Coventry forever changes.

Elim Pentecostal Church – Halifax

Hall St Halifax HX1 5AY

Elim Church

Having walked from Hebden Bridge to Halifax with Mr Phil Wood, we approached Hall Street – and gazed admiringly at this striking building, from across the A58.

Attributed to C.S. Oldfield and it was completed in 1972 apparently they did the relief too.

20th Century Society

A low serrated, ridge and furrow conical roof, corona and steel spire breaking the skyline.

Very much a building of two halves, the single storey hall, adjoining the body of the church, which is raised on a plinth.

They are linked by an internal hallway.

An intriguing mix of restrained classical detailing, along with the more modernistic roof and internal structure.

From the outside it is possible to discern the stained glass panels in the corona.

To the right of the main entrance is a modular sculptural relief, modelled in concrete cast in fibreglass.

There are eight individual modules, set in a grid of six by eleven – sixty six in total, rotated to break up the rhythm of the piece.

I was blessed on the day of my visit, with permission to photograph the interior, many thanks to Pastor Mark.

Boyes Bridlington

29 King Street Bridlington East Riding of Yorkshire YO15 2DN

Supplier of a variety of discounted homewares and DIY products, toys, clothes and stationery.

In 1881 William Boyes opened a small store in Eastborough, Scarborough selling odd lots and remnants from merchants. There was great poverty in the working classes and housewives were even keener for a bargain than they are today. When customers found that they could buy enough material to make a coat or a dress cheaper than anywhere else, they soon spread the word and trade increased to such an extent that William had to look for larger premises.

William rented a large warehouse just off the main street where business continued to grow. By 1886 he purchased further units in Market Street and Queen Street and knocked them into one large store and named it ‘The Remnant Warehouse’. Older customers in Scarborough still refer to the shop as ‘The Rem’. As time went on William expanded his range and bought other clearance lines from merchants developing the warehouse into a department store.

Business continued to grow and go from strength to strength and in 1910 the expansion of the company started. Today W Boyes and Co Ltd operate over 60 stores throughout Yorkshire, the North East, Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire & Leicestershire.

Boyes

In 1969 Hammonds of Hull purchased the Carltons department store located in Bridlington, and within a year had demolished and rebuilt the store. The company’s independence did not last much longer, as in 1972 House of Fraser purchased the business for £8 million. The stores were then grouped under the Binns brand. The Bridlington store was closed in 1995 and the store stood empty for three years until Boyes opened in 1998 

My sincere thanks to Kate Yorke for her detective work.

I have been here before, enchanted by the exterior tiles, of unknown origin – yet strongly redolent of William Mitchell’s work.

These are on the southern face of the building.

On the opposing side.

They flow through into the entrance lobby.

Exploring further I encountered these striking ceramic tiles on the stairwells.

With a matching set on the others side of the store.

It’s a constant delight to discover the decorative art of the Sixties preserved in situ. Remnants of a time when investment in original work was de rigueur, reflecting the pride which companies had in their buildings and the respect they held for their customers.

The stores trade as Boyes – pronounced Boys but often mispronounced as Boys-es.

It is still owned and family run with Andrew Boyes and his son Richard as joint managing directors.

The Scarborough store was home to a number of animals in the past, including monkeys, chipmunks and budgies. The animals were used as way of encouraging customers to visit the store and purchase something whilst they visited. Two of the monkeys, Jacko and Dinah, are famous to a generation of Scarborough shoppers.

Wikipedia

Southend to Clacton

Day three Wednesday 3rd September – leaving Southend under a cloud.

The huge slab of the Civic Centre shrouded in sea mist.

Designed by borough architect – PF Burridge.

Queen Mum Opens Civic Centre – It took a while to get there, since 1958 when the council agreed to embark on a quest to build a new home for itself;  but on 31st October 1967 HRH the Queen Mother did the honours and formally opened the spanking new Civic Centre.  During its build Southend was classed as being in the top ten in the country for full employment, due to this workers were hard to come by and bus loads of workers were brought in to complete this and the many other projects shooting up along Victoria Avenue at the same time. 

Cllr Beryl Scholfield commented later on the day – The Queen Mother opened the Civic Centre in 1967, when my husband was chairman of the town hall committee, and we had lunch with her at Porters.  We were presented to her when she came in. There were no more than about 30 of us there.  It was a most exciting day.

She was as natural as you see her on the television.

Postscript 2002

A Union Jack lowered to half-mast in tribute to the Queen Mum has been stolen from Southend’s Civic Centre. A council spokeswoman today denounced the theft as – a despicable act at a time of great sadness and national mourning.

The outrage has caused extra sadness for royalist residents in the town because of the Queen Mother’s special place in the history of the Civic Centre.

The Leda and the Swan statue by Lucette Cartwright, which used to be in the Civic Centre atrium, gets a polish in May 1987.

A bronze statue depicting a mythological rape has finally found a new home at the mayor of Southend’s official residence. The controversial statue of Leda and the Swan was specially commissioned by Southend Council in the Sixties and first stood outside the courthouse in Victoria Avenue.

Later it was moved to the Civic Square and then to the courtyard of the Palace Theatre, in Westcliff. Later, it was moved to the Civic Centre when it caused outrage among staff. Workers claimed the statue, representing the rape of Leda by the Greek god Zeus disguised as a swan, glorified rape as an art form.

Last week, the statue was removed from the Civic Centre and is now at the mayor’s residence, Porters, in Southend.

Rob Tinlin, Southend Council’s chief executive and town clerk said – The statue of Leda and the Swan was located at the Civic Centre until a suitable location was found. The statue is permanently on display in the garden of the mayor’s residence, Porters in Southchurch Road.

It is in an appropriately landscaped area next to the pond.

Photo Phil Parsons

Misty eyed I missed the sculptural fountain – William Mitchell I presume?

Said farewell to Neptunes unilluminating assorted fish.

Heading out of town past noisy scenes of quiet despair, no more fancy goods, no more confectionary – shake that.

Heading inland, away from the wibbly wobbly estuarine coast of higgledy piggledy Essex, through freshly mown pasture and solitary haywains.

This is Constable country:

Like many artists practising at the time, Constable used sketches as source material for fully worked-up compositions. He did not find the production of finished paintings easy, which probably contributed to his late recognition by the art establishment.

V&A

Passing by solitary bus shelters, patiently awaiting passengers.

Waterworks works in the palatial neo-classical manner, with a restrained nod to incipient Art Deco.

Encountering the occasional leafy lane.

I eventually found myself on the outskirts of Colchester, outside St Theresa Of Lisieux .

A striking pre-cast concrete frame design of 1971, with a dramatic and well-lit interior, lively modulation of wall surfaces and some furnishings and artworks of note.

Architect – JH Dabrowski 

The entrance façade has a large gable and projecting entrance canopy, above which is a bronze statue of the Risen Christ, by local artist Tita Madden – 1977

This is a large modern church, built with a pre-cast concrete frame with a crossover roof beam system, allowing for dramatic internal effects. Within the bays created by the frame, the walling is mostly brick, with some pre-cast concrete panels, and large areas of glazing. Concrete is also used for the window mullions and surrounds. Each bay has the brickwork slightly angled or faceted, giving the design a great sense of movement and liveliness, both inside and out.

Taking Stock

Struggling to go around a Straight Road.

£240,000 will get you an Art Deco maisonette in Vint Crescent from Wowhaus:

This one is a ground floor apartment, which has undergone a complete refurbishment, but with one on keeping those period features to the fore – period features such as original radiators and those distinctive windows and doors are intact, rubbing shoulders with some new, high-end finishes like oak floors and updated kitchen and bathroom.

Foolishly I became more than somewhat lost and on making enquiries concerning my whereabouts and destination, I was met with gently derisive laughter. Therefore, I bypassed Colchester, took the wrong route along a mainly main road and ended up much too quickly in Clacton.

Home to several shops to let, as we shall subsequently see.

Also home to a fabulous concrete frieze on the exterior wall of the library.

Quickly ensconced in my bijou digs – I hit the town to take a look around.

I was staying right opposite this here boozer – a little too early for a pint, I’ll pop back in a bit.

Seaside shelter in a faux vernacular manner, calm seas ‘neath an azure sky – perfect.

Artifice and authenticity the sunbathing citizens sit beside an inflatable pool – perched above the sea on the pier.

Clacton Pier, which opened on 27 July 1871 was officially the first building erected in the then-new resort of Clacton-on-Sea. A wooden structure 160 yards in length and 4 yards wide, the pier served as a landing point for goods and passengers, a docking point for steamships operated by the Woolwich Steam Packet Company, and a popular spot for promenading. By 1893, Clacton had become such a popular destination for day trippers that the pier was lengthened to 1180 ft (360m) and entertainment facilities, including a pavilion and a waiting room, were added to accommodate them.

Wikipedia

The pier seems to have changed hands several times, as is the way with such things, subjected to fires, storms and pestilence – yet still prevails.

Key attractions include Stella’s Revenge – a family Galaxi rollercoaster. Formerly operated at Barry Island Pleasure Park as Galaxy, and later Viper.

Pause to consider the prospect of magical fun, fun, fun.

Let’s return to dry land, where we find certain signs of decline in these uncertain times.

Hope springs eternal in the Arcade hairdressers.

We place our trust in the tried and tested condiments of this most sceptered of isles.

Life goes on at the Linen Shop – yet another Profil/Stymie gem!

A limited choice is widely available from the far from extensive menu, though mushrooms do come with princely, premium price tag attached.

Another long day closes with a well deserved pint – God bless the Old Lifeboat House and all who sail in her.

Night night.

Turnpike Centre – Leigh

The Turnpike Centre was designed by J C Prestwich and Sons architects, who, incidentally, also designed Leigh Town Hall nearly 70 years earlier.

Since its opening in 1971, the bustling library, thriving art gallery and popular meeting rooms have seen a phenomenal 12 million people walk through the doors, while staff have answered almost 400 thousand questions and issued more than 17 million books, cassettes and CDs.

The fascia is graced by a grand cast concrete relief the work of William Mitchell.

All but abandoned by the cash-strapped local council in 2013, Turnpike Gallery in the former mining town of Leigh near Wigan, is entering a new stage in its history with the creation of a community interest company to run its programme.

Natalie Bradbury a.n

Helen Stalker has curated and promoted a series of fine exhibitions in the interim period – sadly arrested by current circumstances.

Let’s take a look around the exterior of a building which reflects the confidence and pride of a very individual town.

On our last visit we even got to look up on the roof.

So post lockdown, when you feel it’s safe and socially acceptable to do so travel to Leigh – take a look.

William Mitchell – Collyhurst

It’s April 2020 and I’m here again.

Having been before and before and before.

It’s lockdown so we can’t go far, so from home in Stockport to Collyhurst is within my daily exercise allowance.

There is talk of relocation for the diminutive Mitchell totem, but as of today no sign of any action – all is in abeyance.

What we do see is the encroachment of flora, cleaner air, low or no level human activity encourages growth between the cracks.

And at the base of the plinth

I took the opportunity to get in close.

Move around in a merry dance.

Quite something to spend time in an ever changing urban space – devoid of company, save for the calming sound of birdsong and the distant rumble of a distant train.

William Mitchell – CIS Manchester

We have met before, of course we have – here in Newton Heath

Here in Liverpool

Here in Hull

At Manchester University

In Eastford Square

And of course in Salford

Today on my way elsewhere, in search of something or other, I walked into the lobby of the CIS.

I asked permission from the Receptionist to take a few snaps, was referred to the Head of Security, who referred me to the Receptionist, who ‘phoned Paul, who turned out to be Steve, who thought that it would be OK.

So I did – here are those very snaps, my thanks to the cooperative staff of the Cooperative Insurance Society.

Eastford Square Collyhurst – Nobody Home

Stasis is the order of the day – the last stand for this forlorn stand of shops.

Once the realm of cobbles, railings, high rise arrivals and urban cowboys – an area overwhelmed by the weight of its past and the insubstantial promise of a sustainable future.

Where once productive and fulfilling lives were lived, buddleia now blooms, whilst thin grass entwines around forlorn fencing and betwixt ever widening cracks in the uneven paving.

Development in South Collyhurst will take the form of residential-led, family-focused neighbourhoods. We’ll be providing a variety of housing types and tenures to encourage diversity, along with a mix of social and community infrastructure that supports a family lifestyle in close proximity to the city centre.

Northern Gateway

There are two ideas of government. There are those who believe that if you just legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous, that their prosperity will leak through on those below. The Democratic idea has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous their prosperity will find its way up and through every class that rests upon it.

William Jennings Bryan 1896

Indeed, You have turned the city into a heap of rubble, a fortified town into ruins; the fortress of strangers is a city no more; it will never be rebuilt.

Isiah 25:2

And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, the repairer of the breach, the restorer of paths to dwell in.

Isiah 58:12

The putative William Mitchell cast concrete block stares stolidly at its surroundings, overseeing a slow and painful decline.

All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.

Manifesto of the Communist Party

There’s no business like no business – it’s no better out the back.

This is an unprecedented opportunity to deliver a significant residential-led development connecting the north to the centre of Manchester. Working with our partners we’re re-imagining the essential neighbourhoods of our city.

New Face In Hull

And lo it came to pass – I came to Hull.

Again.

Guiding a group of willing Modernists on a walk.

We were there at the behest of Esther and Leigh, gathering to say farewell to Alan Boyson’s Three Ships, as it transpired we were there to celebrate its reprieve, following their campaign for listing.

Over a million tesserae glowed in the low winter sun – so did we.

As Helen Angell read her poem – Christopher Marsden and Esther Johnson recording the performance for posterity.

The Three Ships are attached to a former Cooperative Store – complete with a formerly working Cooperative Store clock – where we meet at four minutes to six – forever.

We had previously encountered Hammonds of Hull/House of Fraser – soon to be a food court, artisan everything outlet.

And this Festival of Britain style functionalist council building.

Onward to the Queens Gardens the almost filled in former Queens Dock – forever fourteen feet below sea level.

We encounter Ton 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 Carter 1960 – 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, by Robert 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.

Top of the shop William Mitchells relief – time to pause and reflect.

Paying homage to Frederick Gibberd author of the College and Queens Gardens scheme.

En passant catching a glimpse of this splendid non-functioning water feature.

Off on the bus to St Anthony and Our Lady of Mercy just off Beverley Road.

More of which here.

A swift walk around the corner for a swift walk around the University of Hull campus, first encountering the Gulbenkian Building.

And a brief encounter with the Brynmor Jones Philip Larkin Library.

Thanks again to Esther for pointing out this delightful owl – the work of Willi Soukop

My life was never planned, it just happened.

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. 

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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.

William Mitchell – Newton Heath

On meeting an old friend in Manchester – following previous encounters in Coventry, Salford and Liverpool

Following a lead from Neil Simpson I cycled along Clayton Vale and emerged on Amos Avenue where the flats came into view.

I was in search of an an averaged sized totemic concrete municipal public art pillar – similar to the example to be found in Eastford Square.

It belongs to a time when Municipal Modernism was very much in vogue – the provision of social housing along with the commissioning of murals, sculptures, mosaics and tiled reliefs.

There has been some discussion regarding its authorship – it may or may not be the work of William Mitchell – both Skyliner and The Shrieking Violets have tried to find an answer.

Inevitably my only concern is art over authenticity – does it move you?

Let’s just take a little look.



Salford University

So here we are hard by the River Irwell, Peel Park and the A6.

The Royal Technical Institute, Salford, which opened in 1896, became a College of Advanced Technology in 1956 and gained university status, following the Robbins Report into higher education, in 1967.

A new dawn – fired by the white hot heat of British Technology – including the unrealised demolition of the Victorian College, Art Gallery and Museum buildings.

B&W images courtesy USIR Archives

The Maxwell Building and Hall forms the older portal to the campus site.

They were built between 1959 and 1960 to a design by the architect C. H. Simmons of the Lancashire County Architects Department.

In back of the Maxwell complex is the Cockcroft Building.

Sir John Douglas Cockcroft OM KCB CBE FRS 27 May 1897 – 18 September 1967 was a British physicist who shared with Ernest Walton the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1951 for splitting the atomic nucleus, and was instrumental in the development of nuclear power.

The concrete relief to the east fascia of the northern block of the building is now sadly obscured by the addition of intrusive infrastructure.

This incised block of limestone tiles laden with fossilised remains is a curious delight.

Just around the corner the Chapman Building.

This latter day piece of brutalism is buried within the campus of the University of Salford. It was designed by W.F. Johnson and Partners of Leamington Spa, as a lecture theatre block and gallery. It sits with its long axis running parallel to the railway behind. The series of grey volumes, occasionally punctuated by colourful floods of red and green trailing ivy, hang together in a less than convincing composition. The orientation and access to the building seem confused and detached from any cohesive relationship to the rest of the campus, but there is something perversely attractive about the right essay in the wrong language. The reinforced concrete building contained five lecture theatres, communal spaces, an art gallery, AV support areas and basement plant rooms. Following a major refurbishment in 2012, several additions were made to the exterior and its total concrete presence somewhat diminished. It still houses lecture theatres and a number of other learning and social spaces.

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Across the wide and wider A6 are Crescent House and Faraday House – formerly home to the AUEW Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers, ceded to the University in the 1970s

Let’s shimmy along to the former Salford Technical College site.

Now the part of the University of Salford, this grouping is probably the most significant work by Halliday Meecham during this period. The blocks wrap to almost enclose a courtyard and they step up in height towards the rear of the site. To the front is a lecture theatre block in dark brick. The multi-storey elements are straightforward in their construction and appearance and have had their glazing replaced. Perhaps the richest elements here are the three totemic structures by artist William Mitchell, which were listed at Grade II in 2011. Mitchell was actively engaged with the experiments of the Cement and Concrete Associations during the 1960s and produced a wide variety of works for public and private clients; other works regionally include the majority of the external art and friezes at Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral and the Humanities Building at Manchester University. These textured concrete monoliths appear to have an abstract representation of Mayan patterns and carry applied mosaic. They were made on site using polyurethane moulds. There is another Mitchell work hidden behind plasterboard in the inside of the building.

Mainstream Modern

More about the:

Minut Men

Shopping City

High Street Estate

Flemish Weaver

Woolpack

Eastford Square Collyhurst – Slight Return

I’ve been here before and after.

After now seems further away, forever awaiting redevelopment – waiting.

No more Flower Pot Café and a warm welcome from Lee and the lads.

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Nearly nine years on – the shutters are down and nobody is home, save for the Lalley Centre – offering food, support and care to the community.

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Though Sister Rita Lee has now move on to pastures new.

The homes and shops remain resolutely shut, un-lived in and unloved, though the City plans to re-site the resident sculpture, the residents remain absent without leaving.

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Mottram Street Flats – Stockport

A post-war northern town, facing the problems of bomb damage, poor quality housing, and the pressing need for new homes.

In 1963 there seemed to be space and the will to build, the site at the centre of the image flanked by ageing Victorian terraces and industry.

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Soon to become the Mottram Street Development.

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Back in 1965 these were the highest housing tower blocks in Greater Manchester.

The work of borough architects John Rank and Clifford Fernley.

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1960’s Photographs from the Stockport Image Archive

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1980’s photographs from The Tower Block

Typically they incorporated concrete street furniture, sculptural and decorative detail, in keeping with the age.

Like many other developments of the period they have subsequently been clad, fenced, painted and secured beyond recognition.

There was a raised concrete play area, of which nothing has survived.

A little of their original character however has prevailed – a William Mitchellesque fallen obelisk, along with some panelling and planters.

Curious to see public art behind bars

– would that they were removed.

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Minut Men Totems – Salford

The three concrete totem sculptures of 1966 by William Mitchell, which stand in the courtyard of the Allerton Building, University of Salford, are recommended for designation at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Historic Interest: as a good representative example of the commissioning of public artwork as an integral element of the design of new higher education colleges and universities in the post-war period, here succeeding in imbuing a distinct identity and image on an otherwise relatively plain complex.

So it seemed appropriate to cycle to Salford early one sunny Saturday morning, in an otherwise relatively plain manner in order to see the three totems.

William Mitchell was a leading public artist in the post-war period who designed many pieces of art in the public realm, working to a high artistic quality in various materials but most notably concrete, a material in which he was highly skilled, using innovative and unusual casting techniques, as seen in this sculptural group. He has a number of listed pieces to his name, both individual designs and components of larger architectural commissions by leading architects of the day.

Historic England says so, they loved them so much they listed them Grade II.

I loved them so much I listed them lovely, especially in lowish spring light, set against a clear blue sky and framed by the surrounding academic buildings.

Further info here on Skyliner

Go take a look.

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