Billingham

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.

Historic England

Across the way the cosmically named Astronaut pub known locally as the Aggy.

Though all it seems, is not well in outer space:

Locals say punters are creating a giant toilet next to a Billingham pub – and performing sex acts.

I wouldn’t disregard what they say, and I can’t say that didn’t happen, said boss Jordan Mulloy.

I know urinating goes on from time to time but people do it outside every pub – anyone I catch doing it will be barred.

Teeside News

The pub stands at the outer edge of the West Precinct.

The precinct sits beneath the Civic Offices.

And has a ramp leading to the roof top parking.

Next door the earlier Queensway Centre.

The Family unveiled by HRM Queen Elizabeth II in 1967 the country’s first pedestrianised precinct.

Edward Bainbridge Copnall 

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.

Hartlepool Mail.

Missing in action – La Ronde aka Eleanor Rigby’s.

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.

The Forum

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.

Something Concrete and Modern

Porth Wen Brickworks – Anglesey

Located twixt Bull Bay and Cemaes Bay, accessed whilst walking the Anglesey Coastal Path.

The area is rich in Quartzite, central to the production of Silica Bricks, which are resistant to high temperatures, much in demand at the height of the Industrial Revolution for lining steel furnaces.

The ore on the headland was first mined around 1850, with the ore being hewn out the living rock by hand.

A little railway brought the ore to the cliff above the brick works, then lowered by gravity to the works below, where the rocks would be pummelled and rendered to a size that could be further processed.

Mining by manual endeavour lasted from around 1850 to 1914, the hazardous harbour and alleged poor quality products hastening the enterprises’s demise.

Porth Wen brickworks was designated as a scheduled monument by Cadw in 1986 and classified as a post-medieval industrial brickworks.

Further information.

I first visited Porth Wen in the late Seventies, cycling to the nearest lane and walking across open fields.

It remains as incongruous today, set amongst coastal agriculture and the shiny sea.

Take care it’s a slippery slope – and the owners forbid access to their private property.

Octel Amlwch – Interiors

Having appraised the exteriors and pumping infrastructure, let us now consider the interior life of the site.

A site where a myriad working lives once unfolded – labourers, technicians, maintenance staff, administrators and managers.

They are now but fleeting shadows, their documents strewn across upturned furniture, empty lockers their standing open and untended, laboratories whose processes have ceased. A chaotic canteen with no-one to cook for, unsafe safety suits and unwashed washrooms.

Home now to pigeons, gulls and swallows alone.

The disconnected telephone remains unanswered.

Octel Amlwch – Pumping

We have taken a trip around the extant exteriors of the processing plant.

Now let’s turn our attention toward the epic infrastructure which extracted and pumped seawater.

Sea water is sucked in and then lifted 50ft into sea water ponds by huge pumps where any debris is removed. It is then passed to the seawater main where chlorine and dilute sulphuric acid are added which releases the bromine. It is literally blown out of the water. This water is passed into the top of a tower where it drops over 20ft through the packed section of the tower. There it is met by currents of air travelling upwards. Where it meets these air currents the bromine gets stripped out the water, which is returned to the sea. Whilst the wet bromine laden air passes from the top of the tower to be treated with sulphur dioxide and water. This produces mists of hydrobromic and sulphuric acids.

This mist passes into an absorber, and the acid coalesces. From here, it blows to a collecting tank. The bromine free air returns to the blowing out tower and the cycle begins again. The acidic product is referred to as primary acid liquor. This is now pumped to the steaming out tower. It enters the top and is treated with chlorine and steam, which releases the bromine as vapour. It is then condensed to a liquid. The bulk of bromine goes to dibromoethane, whilst the remainder is sold or used to make other intermediates.

It takes about 22,000 tonnes of seawater to produce 1 tonne of bromine. Every minute 300,000 gallons of seawater are drawn in.

This now redundant technology has left a legacy of industrial dereliction amongst the ancient Pre-Cambrian rocks and sylvan seas of the Anglesey Coast.

This is a landscape which induces fear and fascination in equal measure.

Whatever is fitted in any sort to excite the ideas of pain, and danger, that is to say, whatever is in any sort terrible, or is conversant about terrible objects, or operates in a manner analogous to terror, is a source of the sublime; that is, it is productive of the strongest emotion which the mind is capable of feeling.

Edmund Burke

Octel Amlwch – Exteriors

Amlwch has been the centre of the world’s copper industry, a coastal town on Anglesey with a long history of trade, the coming and going of goods.

Once the site of a processing plant extracting bromine from sea water.

The Associated Octel factory was built to extract bromine from seawater and turn it into an additive for petrol engines. At the time, petrol used in road vehicles contained lead. Engine knocking was a common problem, when the mixture of air and fuel didn’t burn efficiently with each detonation. This could damage engine cylinders over time. The additive produced here reduced knocking and improved engine efficiency.

As the health effects of lead in vehicle exhaust gases became better understood, unleaded petrol was developed. It was introduced to UK filling stations in the 1980s, and leaded petrol was later phased out. As demand for anti-knock additive reduced, the Octel factory diversified into other bromine products and was taken over by Great Lakes Chemical Corporation. In 2003, the corporation decided to close the works with the loss of more than 100 jobs.

A detailed history of the site can be found here at Octel Amlwch.

The site has been subject to arson attacks and partial demolition, the extant buildings tagged, tattered and torn.

Slowly but surely nature breaks through the tarmac and concrete.

The gate is open, the lights are out, there’s nobody home.

Deal To Margate

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

Though the pier appeared to be closed.

Extending elegantly over a still, still sea.

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

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

Wikipedia

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

Home to some understated Seaside Moderne homes too.

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

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

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

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

Historic England

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

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

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

Wikipedia

Broadstairs was alive with Bank Holiday activity.

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

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

Built of flint and rubble.

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

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

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

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

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

Dreamland was still dreaming.

And Arlington House staring steadfastly out to sea.

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

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

Great customer service and friendly staff, see you soon.

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

Trip Advisor

Time for a wander around Cliftonville.

Discovering a shiny new launderette.

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

And a patriotic tea rooms.

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

But first a pint or two.

Rye To Deal

I’ve been here before on a longer Hastings to Margate leg, here’s a shorter hop.

Late night arrival in Rye, early morning departure following a hearty hotel breakfast.

Firstly along tracks, then parallel to the road on sequestered farmland, through the flat salt marshes of Camber.

Where Tim stops, in order to fail to buy fruit.

Brief relief from the track along the concrete sea defences and path.

Passing the temporary dwellings, beside the shifting sands and shingle.

Glancing toward Dungeness Power Station.

Dungeness nuclear power station comprises a pair of non operational nuclear power stations, located on the Dungeness headland in the south of Kent. Dungeness A is a legacy Magnox power station that was connected to the National Grid in 1965 and has reached the end of its life. Dungeness B is an advanced gas-cooled reactor (AGR) power station consisting of two 1,496 MWt reactors, which began operation in 1983 and 1985 respectively, and have been non-operational since 2018 due to ongoing safety concerns.

There were many problems during construction of the second power station, which was the first full-scale AGR. It was supposed to be completed in 1970, but the project collapsed in 1969. The CEGB took over project management and appointed British Nuclear Design and Construction (BNDC) as main contractor. There were more problems and by 1975 the CEGB was reporting that the power station would not be completed until 1977 and the cost had risen to £280 million. By completion the cost had risen to £685 million, four times the initial estimate in inflation-adjusted terms.

In March 2009, serious problems were found when Unit B21 was shut down for maintenance, and the reactor remained out of action for almost 18 months. In 2015, the plant was given a second ten-year life extension, taking the proposed closure date to 2028. In September 2018, both units were shut down and were expected to restart in December 2020. On 7 June 2021, EDF announced that Dungeness B would move into the defuelling phase with immediate effect.

Wikipedia

Pausing for a moment to take a drink, sadly not a drink in the Jolly Fisherman – unlike another comical pair.

During their 1947 UK tour, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were invited to re-open the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Light Railway.

After travelling down by regular train, the pair performed a couple of skits to entertain the crowds – and the gathered news crews – before riding the light railway.

The duo then lunched with dignitaries at the Jolly Fisherman, before returning for tea at the railway’s restaurant at Hythe.

Dover Kent

The original pub

On Monday and inquest was held on the body of Mr. John Adams, landlord of the “Jolly Fisherman,” who was found drowned in a well near his house.

From the evidence it appeared that the deceased left home on Saturday morning for the purpose, according to his usual custom, of walking to New Romney, to see if there were any letters for Dungeness. Not returning at the usual time, his wife became alarmed, and a messenger was dispatched to Romney to see if he had been to the Post-office. It was ascertained he had not, and the search was forthwith made.

About 2 o’clock one of the coastguardsmen, Edward Hooker, bethought him to look into the well, which is about 250 yards from the deceased’s house. In doing so he was horrified to find the poor fellow head downwards, partly immersed in water. Assistance was at once procured, and he was removed to his house, quite dead. There was about 4 feet of water in the well.

In the absence of any testimony to establish the inference of suicide, and open verdict of Found Drowned was returned. The deceased was about 50 years of age.

It has been stated that the deceased had of late, been rather abstracted, but no evidence was adduced to establish the truth of this assertion.

The present Jolly Fisherman pub is located in the centre of Greatstone at the junction of Dunes Road and The Parade.

This was built by the brewers Style and Winch Ltd, who owned the old Jolly Fisherman, in about 1935 as a pub and hotel.

Postcard of 1975

Here we are now taking time out at New Romney, in order to view the locomotives in steam, at the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Light Railway.

The RH&DR was the culmination of the dreams of Captain J. E. P. Howey — a racing driver, millionaire land owner, former Army Officer and miniature railway aficionado and Count Louis Zborowski — eminently well-known racing driver of his day – famous for owning and racing the Chitty Bang Bang Mercedes.

The 120ft Grade II Listed water tower at Littlestone was built in 1890 by Henry Tubbs to supply water to his properties in Littlestone, including Littlestone Golf Club and his proposed housing development. 

Henry Tubbs wanted to turn Littlestone into a major resort, and embarked on an ambitious building programme, including the Marine Parade and Grand Hotel. His plans for a pier were not realised, however, and it was eventually built at Eastbourne instead.

The tower is constructed in red brick which shows the external features of the tower very well. It narrows at about the third story and its appearance changes depending on your viewpoint. At the top there is a sort of turret, giving the building a slightly military look.

The military used the Tower during World War Two as a lookout post and they made some changes to the structure, partly the reason for its slightly wobbly look. The Army also added a substantial concrete stairway inside.

Unfortunately the water tower didn’t function properly and the water was found to contain too much salt to be of any use. In 1902 the Littlestone and District Water Company built a tower at Dungeness to supply all of New Romney, Littlestone, Greatstone and Lydd. The tower at Littlestone fell into disuse, but now serves as a residence.

The Romney Marsh

The failed resort of Littlestone continues to fail.

Whilst Folkstone thrives.

Even the Grand Burstin has been improved.

23 November 2009 

This place has got to be up for Worst Hotel in the UK. 

We made the mistake of staying there for our first anniversary, and we sorely regretted it. First, after the initial shock that awaits anyone entering the lobby, we were given probably the filthiest room in hotel history.

It reeked of smoke and urine.

The management’s disorganisation landed us free meals, even if they paid us £10 per person to eat that stuff it wouldn’t be worth it:

Canned fruits, red meat galore with no other option, greasy bacon, value bread, omelet made with the least real eggs possible, all served with the same urine smell in the restaurant and by the most apathetic staff ever.

We left as soon as possible.

Seeing that place in the rear-view mirror was the highlight of our visit.

Trip Advisor

The current hotel was built in 1984 from the foundations of the Royal Pavilion Hotel, originally built in 1843, parts of which form the new Burstin Hotel, such as the Victorian restaurant.

It’s along climb out of Folkstone, there are no snaps – simply memories of a weary ascent.

Eventually we top out and roll along over the white cliffs of Dover.

Where we discover this delightful concrete listening post.

Abbot’s Cliff Acoustic Mirrors 

Before the advent of radar, there was an experimental programme during the 1920s and 30s in which a number of concrete sound reflectors, in a variety of shapes, were built at coastal locations in order to provide early warning of approaching enemy aircraft. A microphone, placed at a focal point, was used to detect the sound waves arriving at and concentrated by the acoustic mirror. These concrete structures were in fixed positions and were spherical, rather than paraboloidal, reflectors. This meant that direction finding could be achieved by altering the position of the microphone rather than moving the mirror.

Graham Stephen

Eric Ravilious Abbot’s Cliff – 1941

Descending into Dover, ascending again, hot and weary.

Appreciating the slow traffic free drag down to St Margarets Bay – sadly no photos, suffice to say one of the most elegant lanes of the trip, once home to Sir Noël Pierce Coward.

In Coward’s seven years in the Bay he entertained a large array of famous friends from the arts, film and stage.  Katherine Hepburn stayed  here with Spencer Tracey and swam daily from the shore. Daphne Du Maurier, Ian Fleming, Gertrude Lawrence and John Mills all came to relax, play Canasta and Scrabble or join Coward in his painting studio where he produced oils of the Bay.

St Margarets History

Arriving in Deal we quickly buzzed off to the Green Berry, one of my favourite pubs.

Followed by a twilight kebab on the prom.

Finally fetching up in the Wetherspoons.

The Sir Norman Wisdom

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.

Portsmouth To Brighton

Having cycled along the Solent to Pompey – we set out Brighton bound one sunny Sunday morning in the merry month of May.

Heading for the Hayling Island Ferry.

Determined to make good time as we had an appointment a Pallant House, we pedalled purposefully along the Hayling Billy Line.

Ever onward, passing several examples of well kept, post war houses and former tin tabs.

We eventually rolled into Chichester, finding our way to the gallery which I had previously only ever dreamt of visiting.

What wonders await at Pallant House?

Inside we found the best of Twentieth Century British Art, displayed in period surroundings.

Suitably satiated we sat headed further east – to Bognor and beyond!

Reynolds Furniture Depository and a crowded Bank Holiday weekend seafront.

Since 1867 Reynolds has grown from a small shop to the largest furniture store in Sussex, with over 30,000 sq ft on four floors.

The Funeral Service now has three offices in Bognor Regis, Chichester and Littlehampton and the purpose built storage facility in Canada Grove continues to thrive.

We soon found ourselves in Felpham, amongst yet more interesting housing.

We traversed the River Arun at Littlehampton.

Then meshed with the milieu on the prom.

The day grew much hotter and we grew ever so slightly loster.

Finding our way back to the coast through the Kingston Gorse Estate – where almost everything is comprehensively prohibited.

Kingston Gorse is a beautiful seaside location close to Goring-by-Sea in West Sussex. In Kingston Gorse, there is a gorgeous housing development with a number of three, four and five bedroom homes.

In 1918 JA Candy, who owned East Kingston Farm, sold the land on which Kingston Gorse now stands to the local builder G Pesket.

In the 1920s he constructed the infrastructure and developed approx. 30 plots including Imray, which he occupied.

Kingston Gorse

The estate was once home to Bud Flanagan who then sold his house to Teddy Knox.

The Crazy Gang Bud Flanagan Jimmy Nervo Teddy Knox Charlie Naughton Jimmy Gold

by Cecil Beaton

At Southwick we crossed the River Adur via the docks’ locks.

Proceeding towards our overnight digs more than somewhat weary – it’s been a long day.

There are more snaps here taken on my previous trip.

Southampton to Portsmouth

We arrived safely by train from Stockport at Southampton Central.

Following lengthy consideration we headed off on our bikes.

Whilst halting to review our progress, I realised that I had lost the map, a map vital to our further progress.

Returning to the station I found it nestled against the kerb.

Further assessment of our onward journey resulted in yet another retracing of steps.

In the shadow of Southampton Station dwarfed by Norwich House.

Resolute, we confront the fact that we are unsure of the route and following close scrutiny of the map, our environs and the surrounding signage, we proceed eastward towards our destination.

Wyndham Court – architects Lyons Israel Ellis, E.D. Lyons being the partner in charge along with Frank Linden and Aubrey Hume.

Leaving the city and heading along the Weston Shore – Southampton Water.

To our right several Seaside Moderne shelters

Tim feasts on a Mint Club biscuit.

To our left are the tower blocks of Weston Farm Foreshore – L. Berger City Architect 1963

Seen here in 1985 – Tower Block.

In the distance Canberra Towers Ryder and Yates 1967

Residents living on the second floor of 24-floor block Canberra Towers, on Kingsclere Avenue in Weston, were told to evacuate as flames erupted inside a kitchen.

The Daily Echo spoke to the residents of the affected flat, who said the cat knocked paper that was on top of the microwave, which then fell onto the toaster.

Tracey Long said:

I’ve got two cats, and Sponge was the one who knocked the paper.

He knocked paper off the microwave and into the toaster, it was quite scary.

I lost him in the flat but now I’ve found him again.

Daily Echo

Arriving just in time to be too late, next thing you know we’re bobbing along on the Hamble Warsash Ferry.

The obliging ferry folk having taken us across the estuary, despite our tardiness.

The village and the River featured in the 1980s BBC television series Howards’ Way.

Sadly little evidence of the successful TV show remains, however happily Henry VIII’s Dock and an Iron Age Fort have prevailed.

Onward to Gosport where we happen upon a diminutive yet perfectly formed Bus Station.

Originally built in the 1970s, the bus station was described in 2012 as knackered by the council chief executive at the time, Ian Lycett, and an investment plan was drawn up.

Talk of redevelopment then resurfaced in 2015, before the site was put on the market in 2016.

The News

Keith Carter, retiring owner of Keith’s Heel Bar in Gosport Precinct, has described the bus station as a missed opportunity.

The nearby Harbour and Seaward Towers have faired a little better, newly clad and their tiled murals intact.

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. 

They really are something they really are.

And so following a ride on the Gosport Ferry we arrive at Portsmouth Harbour.

The land where British Rail signage refuses to die!

I have passed this way before on a Bournemouth to Pompey trip and both Tim and I were students at the Poly here in the 70s – more of which later.

Seaward Tower Harbour Tower – Gosport

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 tiles were produced by Carter and Co of Poole

Wikipedia

He was also responsible for the unlisted and under threat ceramic murals in Halifax Swimming Baths.

C20

Whilst cycling form Southampton to Margate I took the opportunity to walk around and snap the blocks, one sunny day in May.

Here they are unclad in 1984

Tower Block

Brochure courtesy of Peter Blake

The work seems unrivalled in both scale and vision a lasting testament to good design.

New Town House – Warrington

Warrington Borough Council  New Town House Buttermarket Street WA1 2NH

A true brute of a building, relentlessly repeated pre-cast concrete panels and partially mirrored windows, in a predictable grid.

A pale grey monolith on the wrong side of town.

Built in 1976 to house the Warrington & Runcorn Development Corporation.

2007 voted the ugliest kid in town.

Now due for demolition, by way of a suicide note addressed to itself.

It will not be missed by the majority of residents.

Good, it’s horrible and worthy of demolition.

No doubt the Brutalist-loving nutters will be out in force to protect this.

Nobody actually likes brutalist buildings.

They just pretend to like them to make themselves look cool, it’s like craft beer and food that comes in tiny portions.

One lone voice in its defence.

I have started a petition to save this place.

We can’t lose all our Brutalist Architecture to the steel and glass brigade – viva the New Town House.

Place North West

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.

BT Building – Warrington

Wilson Patten street Warrington Cheshire WA1

A forgotten part of Warrington town centre could be turned into plush new affordable flats.

Developers are looking to put an eight-storey apartment block off Wilson Patten Street close to the former BT telephone exchange building – described in the planning application as an:

ugly concrete monolith

It would be home to a mix of forty one, two and three bed flats on the spare land which is currently used as a car park.

Warrington Guardian

Typically the architecture of Twentieth Century infrastructure is reviled and ridiculed – simply swept away by contemporary, anonymous design and construction.

At least in this instance the developers intend to retain the ugly concrete monolith.

For me it is an essay in confident construction and decoration, the marriage of 1955’s brick utilitarianism, with a later concrete structure.

Poised on massive grey piloti, rising elegantly above the town.

Adorned with a simple articulation of surface.

East Didsbury Station

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.

The station was rebuilt in the 1959 by the architect to the London Midland section of British Rail, William Robert Headley – who was also responsible for Coventry, Oxford Road and Piccadilly Stations.

Services to Manchester Airport began in 1993 upon the opening of the Manchester Airport spur.

With the privatisation of rail services in 1996/7, East Didsbury was served by the North Western Trains franchise.

Although it’s just up the road from me, this is the first time I’ve ever travelled back to or from there.

I was off to Eccles – live and direct!

The southbound side has been tastefully replaced by nothing in particular.

In a style to match our austere privatised times – provincial bus stop chic.

happy the northbound side’s still stood standing – on stilts.

The waiting room more or less intact.

The last of the few, get it while you can – all aboard for Patricroft, right away guard!

Archive images: JF Harris 1959

KCOM – Hull

37 Carr Lane Hull HU1 3RB

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.

KCOM

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 stories were written and performed by Hull Telephone employees.

The first story attracted 20,000 callers, with 35,000 customers the following year with calls and media interest received nationally and internationally.

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.
1964 Celebrating our Diamond Jubilee with the official opening of the new Central Exchange and Head Office – Telephone House in Carr Lane Hull.

KCOM History

The work of City Architect A Rankine OBE RIBA
2007 New company name as Hull City Council sell remaining stake.

The shareholders of Kingston Communications HULL PLC voted to change the company name to KCOM Group PLC to more accurately reflect the changing shape and geographic reach of the company.

Hull City Council sell remaining stake-holding in the business.

This is a fine building of brick, concrete, stone and steel, a restrained palette and commanding volumes, which asserts itself within the framework of the surrounding post-war architecture.

Well worth a walk around – let’s circumnavigate right now!

Good night all, sweet dreams and don’t forget to call Santa – hope that you all enjoyed your corned beef and cabbage.

Fishermen’s Mission – Grimsby

Hope Street Grimsby DN32 7QL

If asked to name the UK’s biggest fishing port many people will answer Grimsby.

That was certainly true in the 1950’s when over 500 trawlers set out to sea, today only a handful of boats remain.

The Fishermen’s Mission

Opened in 1966 the Mission met the needs of those engaged in the most perilous of occupations.

Today it is a residential housing block – with flats for sale and rent.

Part of the town’s history a striking building, in many modern ways – most notably its strikingly modern mosaic.

Along with its striking colour scheme interesting use of textured materials and angular geometry.

Higher Openshaw

There’s been more than a few comings and goings along Ashton Old Road.

1906

Where once there were fields, homes and industry arrive, as the Industrial Revolution is in full swing.

1908

The streets to the north of Ashton Old Road are alive with shops, homes, people and prams.

Along with the occasional motor car.

Alpha Street
Bowness Street
Burman Street
Silverdale Street
Toxteth Street
Trevor Street

The Old Road boasted some fine busy boozers.

And a splendid church and school.

St Clements

The man responsible for the majority of these archive photographs is Tommy Brooks of 56 Gransmoor Road.

He is my hero, a member go the Manchester Amateur Photographic Society, cycling the streets of Manchester to produce a unique record of life in the Sixties.

The Manchester Image Collection is awash with his work.

Chapeau Tommy!

Gransmoor Road 1963

The house is no longer there – the area has recently been redeveloped, some older properties demolished, and new homes built.

Though The Gransmoor is no longer The Gransmoor.

Although it briefly became CKs

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.

Whatpub

2010
2021

St Clements still prevails with a healthy congregation.

In 2010 several properties were removed and the land levelled.

Eleven years later old and new now snuggle up together.

The street structure is more or less unchanged.

Though sadly the wonderfully named Ambush Street is no more.

So the big wheel keeps on turning new homes, new folk and new life for East Manchester.

Droylsden Library

Built in 1937 – very much in the civic style of the day, an inter-war classical moderne utilitarian low-rise in brick, steel, stone and concrete.

A three level, level headed essay in resolute local pride, when Droyslden was an independent UDC, prior to the creation of Tameside.

Furnished in the finest manner.

Computerised and digitised – the first library in Tameside to go live.

Home to local art displays and reading corners.

Droylsden Library Carnival entry – first prize winner in its category.

Closed on March 17th it now faces demolition.

Archive photos Tameside Image Archive

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.

Manchester Evening News

Of note are its curved cantilevered concrete balconies, complete with attractive steel balustrades.

Along with its carved relief above the door.

Decorative grille.

Commemorative Communist plaque

Drainpipes

Architectural Type.

And handrail.

I sure will miss the Library – I have walked cycled and bused by for over fifty years.

You are to be replaced by housing and relocated to the new development next door.

UMIST – Manchester

Every now and then, I get the yen to come back here again.

Having included the site on one of my Manchester Modernist Walks, I pop by protectively just to make sure everything’s still there.

The custodians The University of Manchester may well be averse to listing and have already removed Chandos Hall.

Forever.

In addition, a whole block and a walkway have been subtracted.

Thereby placing the Hans Tisdall mosaics: The Alchemist’s Elements in jeopardy – currently held in storage, who knows what fate awaits them?

Discussions have taken place pre-lockdown, another year on and possibly the possibility of a positive resolution.

Consequently I always approach the site with a slight sense of foreboding, it’s Easter and there’s nobody about.

The trees are just about to burst into leaf, there are bright bursts of cherry blossom on the bough.

The sun shines down from a big blue sky, strewn with wisps of cloud.

Let’s have a look around – it’s springtime for UMIST and Modernity!