Crazy Golf – Postcards From Blackpool

This in so many senses is where it all began – my first encounter with the visual arts was through my Aunty Alice’s postcard album. Predating visits to Manchester City Art Gallery in my mid-teens, I was lost in a world of post WW1 printed ephemera, rendered less ephemeral by careful collection and collation. Sitting entranced for hours and hours absorbing the photography, text and illustration of hundreds of unseen hands.

This is North Shore Blackpool – behind the Metropole in the early 60s.

The colour is muted by the then state of the art colour reproduction, the holiday dress is constrained by the codes of the day. Light cotton frocks and wide brimmed sun hats, shirts tucked in belted slacks, sandals and shorts – purely for the pre-teens.

The focus and locus of fun is located on the prom and what better way to squander a moment or eighteen, than with a pleasurable round of crazy golf. Municipal Modernist frivolity rendered corporeal in corporation concrete, repainted annually ahead of the coming vacationers.

Domesticated Brutalism to soften the soul.

And there can be no better away to inform the awaiting world of your capricious coastal antics than a picture postcard, so playfully displayed on the corner shop carousel – 10p a pop.

Stopping to chuckle at the Bamforth’s mild mannered filth, yet finally purer of heart, opting for the purely pictorial.

Man and boy and beyond I have visited Blackpool – a day, week or fortnight here and there, the worker’s working week temporarily suspended with a week away.

Times have now changed and the new nexus is cash, all too incautiously squandered – Pleasure Beach and pub replacing the beach as the giddy stags and hens collide in an intoxicating miasma of flaming Sambuca, Carling, Carlsberg and cheap cocktails – for those too cash strapped for Ibiza.

The numbers are up – 18 times nothing is nothing – each year as I revisit, the primarily primary colour paint wears a little thinner in the thin salt air and the whining westerly wind, of the all too adjacent Irish Sea.

Overgrown and underused awaiting the kids and grown ups that forever fail to show. On one visit the sunken course had become the home of the daytime hard drinkers, they suggested we refurbish and run the course as a going concern. I declined lacking the time, will and capital for such a crazy enterprise.

The starting has finally stopped.

The Bank Of England – Manchester

Standing stately on the corner of Carruthers and Pollard Street, safe as houses.

As safe as the houses that are no longer there, along with the other public houses, along with the jobs, along with the punters – all long gone, it’s a long story.

Look out!

Mind that tram, full of the boys and girls in blue, off to shriek at a Sheikh’s shrine.

The Bank of England was one of Ancoats’ first beerhouses, licensed from 1830 and ten years later it was fully licensed with attached brewhouse.  The brewery did well, in fact it had another tied house, the Kings Arms near Miles Platting station nearby.  The brewery was sold off in the 1860s but continued as a separate business for a few years.

Pubs of Manchester

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Ancoats, the core of the first industrial city, a dense cornucopia of homes, mills and cholera – its citizens said to find respite from disease, through the consumption of locally brewed beer.

Once home to a plethora of pubs, now something of a dull desert for the thirsty worker, though workers, thirsty or otherwise are something of a rarity in the area.

One worker went missing, some twenty years ago Martin Joyce was last seen on the site, the pub grounds were excavated – nothing was found.

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Manchester Evening News

When last open it was far from loved and found little favour amongst the fickle footy fans.

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To the north a tidal wave of merchant bankers, to the east redundant industry.

The Bank of England has gone west.

So clean the mills and factories 

And give me council houses too

And work that isn’t turning tricks

Like building homes and making bricks.

Danny Moran

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Eva Brothers – Clayton Manchester

Eva Brothers of Crabtree Forge, Crabtree Lane, Clayton, Manchester.

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1909  The partnership of James Eva, Archibald William Eva, Victor Eva, Arthur Eva, and Frank Eva, carrying on business as Forge-masters, at Crabtree-lane, Clayton, Manchester, under the style or firm of Eva Bothers was ended. All debts due would be settled by Archibald William Eva, Victor Eva, Arthur Eva, and Frank Eva, who continued the business under the same style.

By 1953 The EVA group of companies was the largest edge tool makers in the world, exporting most of their products. The associated companies included: Chillington Tool Co, Edward Elwell Limited of Wednesbury, A. W. Wills and Son Limited of Birmingham, John Yates and Co Limited of Birmingham, and the Phoenix Shovel Co Limited of Cradley Heath.

1958 Acquired T. Williams Drop forgings and Tools of Small Heath, Birmingham

1959 Planned to convert into a holding company; depressed demand for heavy engineering but continued group prosperity were anticipated.

1960 Eva Brothers paid dividends and made scrip issue; changed the name to Eva Industries as the holding company.

1976: Eva Brothers continued to be a part of Eva Industries.

Graces Guide – for further information.

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This is where Manchester’s prosperity was created, engineering along with King Cotton, formed the financial foundations of the city. These industries are now all but vanished, along with the communities and skills that created them, work and wealth are elsewhere.

Years of free-market economics, acquisition, asset stripping, amalgamation and monopoly have bequeathed a legacy of loss.

Once bustling and business like sheds and yards, are now forests of buddleia and bramble. The sound of metal on metal, but a dull memory, amidst the wilder side of wildlife and the gentle whisper of peeling paint.

Come with me now to the Kingdom of Rust.

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Chantry House – Wakefield

Soft wind blowing the smell of sweet roses to each and every one,
Happy to be on an island in the sun.

An island in Wakefield.

An Island in a sea of dual-carriageways.

Sixties built municipal modernism, hovering on slim stilts above the ground level carpark, complete with pierced brick screen.

The future was bright the future was red – for a short while.

Over the horizon came Sir Ian Kinloch MacGregor KBE.

Lady Thatcher said:

He brought a breath of fresh air to British industry.

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The fifth horseman of the industrial apocalypse – bringing pit-closure, redundancy the deindustrialisation of a whole area.

Offices and citizens are tinned-up, brassed-off and abandoned.

This is now the architecture of civic optimism eagerly awaiting repurposing.

There is talk of conversion to housing, talk is cheap.

A planning application has been drawn up requesting permission to change the use of Chantry House from offices to one and two bedroom residential units. The application has been submitted by The Freshwater Group, the development arm of Watermark Retirement Communities.

Wakefield Express

Currently home to the determined, hardened daytime drinker, street-artist and curious passerby.

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52 Wellington Road North – Stockport

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Commercial premises or showroom. Dated 1889. Red brick with stone dressings and terracotta decorative details, tiled roof. Rectangular building of 4 x 3 bays with canted corner entrance. Jacobean style. Single storey articulated by pilasters supporting a sculptured frieze. Doorway with arched head and fanlight. One, two and three-light mullion and transom windows to the Parsonage Street front. The Wellington Road front has two large plateglass windows divided by paired pilasters. The windows have removed two pilasters. Cornice, panelled parapet, aedicule with console supporters, swan – neck pediment and date over the doorway. Tall hipped roof. Very prominently sited and under restoration at the time of inspection.

Grade: II listed: 23rd March 1987 – Historic England

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Stockport Image Archive

This is a building of some substance, decorated with terracotta work of the highest order, a striking yet diminutive landmark to the north of the town. Situated on a once busy commercial site, where it would have been surrounded by a plethora of retail, industrial and residential property.

My research has shown that its earliest recorded use was under the ownership of JE Jones manufacturing agent for ropes and cords, allied to the local hatting and cotton trades in 1907. Subsequently the base of John Roberts in 1910 – leather merchant, manufacturing  belts, strapping and laces – the company also had premises nearby at 138 Heaton Lane.

It has latterly been in use as Topp’s Tiles, Gordon Ford and Little Amigos Discount Nursery Store – it is currently empty, shuttered and unloved on off at a rent of £1,833 per calendar month from Rightmove.

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As Stockport continues to invest in and develop its town centre, it remains a more than somewhat sorry beacon of decline, an indicator that all to often architecture of local and historic importance, seems to have little or no use in this thrusting modern milieu.

If passing, pause and reflect on the sense of permanence that imbues this building, in an all too impermanent world.

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Indoor Market Preston – Epilogue

I’ve been here, before recording the prelude to the epilogue, here at Preston’s Indoor Market.

So on my return this February, I find that the inevitable end, is indeed now past nigh.

Boarded and shuttered awaiting demolition – Waiting for The Light to shine:

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Preston City Council has granted planning permission to Muse Developments’ £50m cinema-led leisure scheme in the city centre.

Muse is working in partnership with the council on the plans, made up of an 11-screen cinema operated by The Light, seven family restaurants, a 593-space multi-storey car park and public realm improvements.

The project forms part of the wider regeneration of the Markets Quarter which includes the full refurbishment and redecoration of the grade two-listed market canopies and the construction of a glazed Market Hall.

Preston to their credit have become an exemplar for inward urban regeneration, and the work undertaken so far in the market area is bringing new life and trade to the area.

That said, it is always saddening to see the architecture of the Sixties swept aside.

So come take one last wander through the concrete warren of ramps, underpasses and tunnels of the unwanted indoor market.

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Chesterfield – Magistrates Courts

Mysteriously lacking much evidence of its past, save for this Historic England listing.

Chesterfield Courthouse – II Magistrates Court house. 1963-65. Designed by Prof S Allen and Roy Keenlyside for Chesterfield Borough Council, altered in 1975. Reinforced concrete, with decorative stone cladding, and timber roofs clad with copper sheeting. Double fan shaped plan, three storeys. Original east entrance front has recessed ground floor with central double glazed doors now blocked with glazed side lights. Either side four windows with concrete louvres to the offices. Above eleven bays topped with gables, the three central bays have recessed windows to both floors. Either side the two storey courts have grey slate panels with side lights and set back grey! green slate cladding. West front has recessed ground floor with eleven windows each with concrete louvres. Above eleven gabled bays, the central three and outer tow with grey slate cladding and side lights with set back grey green slate cladding. The four remaining bays on either side have recessed windows. The north and south sides have recessed angled facades with slightly recessed ground floor with glazed entrance at centre of east section with large glazed windows above. Flanking wings have concrete louvres set in grey slate cladding. Interior has original Y-shaped entrance hall way which rises up through all three floors. East entrance now blocked and converted to offices. Entrances from north and south into hallway with marled floor and marble clad columns with wooden ceilings and recessed lights. Central imperial type staircase marble clad with metal and wood balustrade. Upper floors have wooden clad walls and movable glazed screen for dividing access from juvenile court when in session. Two storey courts on upper floor retain original wooden cladding, ceilings and courtroom fittings, including magistrates bench, dock, seating for lawyers and the public. 

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And self evidently facing a very uncertain future:

2015 – The Grade II listed building, which is located between Rose Hill and West Bars, has received planning consent allowing it to be used for a range of purposes including office, retail and leisure facilities. Stuart Waite, associate director at Innes England in Derby, who is handling lettings on behalf of a private client, said: “We have been in serious discussions with a number of occupiers regarding this building for a variety of uses. “Occupier confidence is growing and with the economic forecast for 2015 looking positive we are confident that will see early interest converted into deals. “We are working closely with Chesterfield Borough Council which has identified the Rose Hill and West Bars area of the town as a key strategic location for growth.”

It has stood empty for the last few years and been a hotspot for vandalism.

Last July, arsonists set a wheelie bin on fire and pushed it up against the building, causing the flames to spread.

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2017 – Chesterfield’s former magistrates’ court is being used as a drugs den, shock pictures reveal – and a council chief has warned that the building poses a danger to public health. Extremely concerning images obtained by the Derbyshire Times today show hypodermic needles and what appears to be heroin inside the historic property – as well as extensive damage in rooms and excrement smeared up walls.

Derbyshire Times.

It remains on the market for £450,000 a steal if you ask me.

Thread Architects have proposed redevelopment as an Arts Centre

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On the day of my visit there was little evidence of arts activity, save for a short performance piece by a heavily intoxicated mini-mosher and her partner – funding sources having proved to be at best illusory and subject to market forces.

Talk is cheap.

Take a walk on the wild green sward side of town, it remains a marvel, open and accessible, just requires a tender touch, of cash.

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